Wednesday, 21 September 2011

[Takeaway - Trinidad & Tobago] Buss Up Shot. Brap.; Roti Joupa of Clapham

Location - Clapham, London [UK]

Every now and then there is comfort in breaking out of the norm, diverging from the predictability or monotony of habit. Whilst eating a takeaway at home barely constitutes as anything worthy of such an overblown opening statement, it was a refreshing prospect that had not been undertaken in a while. And with my stoic refusal to default on the regular choice with the current company, I would have to venture out of the comfort zone of a restaurant "above" the river. And into the ghetto. New horizons and all. 

Previously, when selecting prospective eateries whenever venturing into London, I had typically never so much as ever considered much of an area beyond the West End, restricting choices to above the river, and within the East/Western borders, obviously in a bid to remain within cushty regions of London. Such pampering had little meaning however, and with recent escapades at festivals, events and other, I have found myself looking for inspiration wherever it was found, which in literal terms means I am an extremely distracted driver, trying to note down any eatery I drive by on my drive into London, in a bid to reach out to any novel cuisines. Being in the UK however, I have largely avoided Takeaways located in less than spiffy locations. Be it through ignorance or otherwise, in much of the world it would seem that street foods and homely neighbourhood stalls offer an undiluted experience of food. In the UK however I have found these sorts of establishments to offer a thoroughly neutered, Westernised and misrepresented rendition of the cuisine they claim to cater. In essence, they are rubbish. 

However, on finding that George had decided to be particularly lethargic and resort to the typical Chinese Takeaway of choice, I figured now was as good a time as any to experiment. Having essentially billions of restaurants to chose from, finding a starting point was difficult. I had managed to short-list a couple of eateries in the vicinity, inspired by recent events like the Notting Hill Carnival, and attempting to stick to the cuisines less devoured. Dillydallying ensued in the waiting of another friend to arrive before making a decision, but knowing his predilection of not generally rocking the boat, I knew I would be a loner in my quest for trying something different, and with his arrival my useless capacity for making decisions was doing my hunger no good. Whittling down the choices, I settled finally for a Trinidadian takeaway, seeing as it was closest, not in quite a ghetto as an African restaurant, and it had Roti. 

Arriving there rather sharpish, I was slightly disillusioned by what greeted me, granted expectations were not high, but the slightly run-down aesthetics, hand-written menu board and the tired looking food in the display counter were not all too inspiring, but it did not phase me. Slightly caught off-guard by a particularly Indian sounding menu, I let the cashier suggest a dish. I rue the move. I should have gone with something a bit more exciting than Chicken Curry, perhaps the fish. Regardless, I added in a couple of extras to add a modicum of interest, as well as the only available dessert, and skipped merrily away to my car. Driving precariously with drink in hand, I quickly arrived and it was time to devour, the other two seemingly too scared to try some of my acquired bounty. Mo' for me. 

~ Starters ~
- Phulourie

Feeling nostalgia from the three weeks gone by since my first sampling of these at the Notting Hill Carnival, I ordered myself a portion for starters, and since I was alone in their sampling I was left to consume all of them on my lonesome. Starting on one, I found a rather cold and soft ball of dough, which was rather plain compared to the gently curry-infused ones of the Carnival. Trying another ball, this time collecting up some of the sauce in the box, I was met with a predominant garlic flavour, rather strong, and rather different to the sweeter, barbeque-esque sauce from the former variants. The sauce did much to perk up the phulourie balls,  with the sharpness and tang from the garlic breaking up the relatively dense yet plain flavour of the dough.

It was disappointing that they were largely devoid of flavour on their own, but the sauce did make them rather hard to resist. They only lasted all of a few seconds.

~ Main Course ~
- Chicken Curry and Channa with Roti, Buss up Shot

My desire for roti was what brought me to this takeaway, and I was presented with generous filled pile of roti to contend with, being offered it "Buss up shot", which apparently in reference to the slang for a "bust up shirt", refers to how the roti should be torn up in pieces and eaten as such, and not a call to drive-by shooting. I promptly commenced, bussing up, and..

Reasonable. Rather quite bland, but reasonable. The curry had given up any pretension of being spicy or spiced, rather presenting only the mildest of infusions of spice, and absolutely no heat. The channa [chickpeas] were similarly bland but added a welcome earthy note to the curry, which was further supplemented by the light dusting of chickpea flour within and on the dalh roti. Piece by piece however, the roti was being quickly consumed, despite its relative anonymity, though that could just as well be indicative of my gluttony.

~ Dessert ~
- Kurma

Being left at the whim of choosing between some Coconut Rolls or the Kurma, I eventually ordered the Kurma, put off initially by the notion of ordering biscuits. I was assured that they are really special, but I was not faithful. Especially not after having seen my roti and curry being reheated in a microwave oven. Having left a mere morsel of the roti over to "leave space" for dessert, I thus fished one out of the plastic bag. Well this was a surprise. Delightfully crunchy, almost like a short pastry, it was exceptionally light, melting in the mouth. A slight hint of ginger was clear in the dough, which added that bit of a fresh spice. Despite the sugar coating on the biscuits, the kurma were only moderately sweet, and exquisitely addictive.

~ Drinks ~
- Sorrel Juice

Yet another nostalgic move, at half the price and twice the volume of the example I bought at the carnival, I had high hopes for the drink, especially as I was told it was home-made, though again, I was not inspired by that notion considering the surroundings. As the picture depicts, I struggled to photograph the drink in a timely manner, but it was not terribly enticing. Whilst it was enjoyable, it did not have the same strong essence of ginger as the one I had tried at the carnival, and it was also sweeter. As a result it was not as clean or "fresh" tasting, being rather bland and less refreshing at the same time. Not to say it was an unpleasant drink, it was quite nice, but in the end, that is all it was.


Not damned with much praise, but in all I was perhaps elated with the decision of having takeaway from Roti Joupa for the evening. Despite all my experience of Caribbean food having been amassed in one sitting - or rather, constant walking devouring -  only three weeks prior, at least I there was scope in noting variances between them. Granted, with a complete dearth of any experience of authentic Caribbean cuisine, I am essentially still clueless. Nevertheless, I ventured for a different choice to the despicable notion of going for the norm, the food was cheap, and I did not really have expectations to begin with - if that were the case, I would have expected the food at the Notting Hill Carnival to be several times as good considering the inflated pricing. The food from Roti Joupa in all was rather tepid, predominantly bland with only a modicum of spicing or interesting flavours to perk up proceedings. 

Perhaps this could be seen as a sign of the nefarious dread of Westernising, in the quest of maximising income the food being produced having to suffer to the comatose taste buds of the general public. Not that I can speak for them, as twice a roti eater doth not an expert make. However, if struggling for a choice in the future, I may warrant another try out of Roti Joupa, if for anything just to try out some of the unavailable dishes at the time. Or maybe not, seeing as now I have had my starting point from the millions of Takeaways in the Broader, Beyond "Upper Thames" West London.

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